Couric Touts How Free Health Clinic Shows 'Reform Is Desperately Needed'
At the top of Thursday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric used a free clinic in Inglewood, California to push for health care reform: "Tonight in the battle over health care, they are on the front lines....we're going to show you why many believe reform is desperately needed. These are just some of the tens of thousands of Americans who need health care but have no insurance or not enough of it."
In the report that followed, correspondent Bill Whitaker described the organization that set up the free health clinic: "This program is run by Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit group established 24 years ago to take modern medicine to the third world. Today, they do some 40 multi-day free clinics a year, 65% of them now in the U.S." Whitaker spoke to one volunteer physician, who compared the need for health care in the U.S. to that of third world nations: "Here at home, we have as much a need as I do when I travel to the most remote areas of India, and that's very heartbreaking."
On March 2 of last year, CBS's 60 Minutes ran a story on Remote Area Medical in which anchor Scott Pelley made similar third world comparisons when discussing the American health care system: "Recently, we heard about an American relief organization that air drops doctors and medicine into the jungles of the Amazon....But these days, that's not the Amazon - this charity founded to help people who can't reach medical care now finds itself throwing America a lifeline."
Later in the Thursday Evening News report, Whitaker took a shot at the protests at health care town hall meetings: "For doctors and patients here, the shouting over health care reform is incomprehensible." He cited one patient at the clinic, Anna Garcia, who declared: "Walk in my shoes. Try it a couple of weeks. You won't last."
The story was repeated on Friday's CBS Early Show and Whitaker again criticized the town hall protests: "Furry and shouting have dominated the debate over health care reform, making it difficult to hear the quiet pain of people like Cynthia Cobb....She lost her job as an L.A. bus driver and with it, her benefits and insurance. She ended up joining thousands of people here in desperate need of health care."
In the 8:00AM ET hour of the show, co-host Harry Smith interviewed Remote Area Medical Founder, Stan Brock, and asked about the large turnout at the free clinic: "What does this response tell you about the state of health care in America?" Brock attacked the American health care system: "Well, you know, the World Health Organization rates the United States at number 37 in its ability to provide health care for its citizens....It's been like that in this country for many, many years....Unfortunately, in the United States it seems that health care is the privilege of the wealthy and the well-insured. And the rest of us have to do the best we can."
Smith's only response to those incendiary accusations: "Stan Brock, we applaud you and the service that you have helped offer to all of these folks."
Here is a full transcript of the Evening News story:
KATIE COURIC: Tonight in the battle over health care, they are on the front lines. Poor, under-insured and in need of a doctor.
KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Once again, we begin tonight with the battle over health care reform, but this time, we're not starting at a town meeting. Tonight, we're going to show you why many believe reform is desperately needed. These are just some of the tens of thousands of Americans who need health care but have no insurance or not enough of it, and they're lining up at a free makeshift clinic in Los Angeles, a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Bill Whitaker begins our coverage.
BILL WHITAKER: People from all around Los Angeles have been lining up like this around the clock since Monday. Waiting, hoping to get medical care.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [VOLUNTEER, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL]: Follow the line.
WHITAKER: Free medical care, some 1,500 people a day, almost all working people who have insurance, but it's just not enough, filing into L.A.'s cavernous forum to see 443 doctors.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [DOCTOR, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL]: Can you can see my finger?
WHITAKER: Dentists, optometrists, all of these medical professionals volunteers, all of these people in need. Larry Durst's disability check won't cover the glasses he needs. What would you do you if this were not here?
LARRY DURST: Suffer. You know, go without.
WHITAKER: Kenya Smith needs a checkup for two week-old Zoe. Her insurance doesn't cover it.
KENYA SMITH: They wanted $1,500 for - just to be seen by a doctor, plus co-payments and that was kind of a lot of money, I thought.
WHITAKER: Anna Garcia got in line Tuesday for dental work.
ANNA GARCIA: I have insurance through my employer.
WHITAKER: She works for Orange County, has five children, her husband out of work. The co-pay for three-year-old Aisa's root canal, $1,000.
GARCIA: I couldn't afford it and I didn't want her to lose her teeth, so once I read about this program, I had to take advantage of it, even if it meant me losing a couple of days from work.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [VOLUNTEER, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL]: I need a volunteer at seven, please.
WHITAKER: This program is run by Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit group established 24 years ago to take modern medicine to the third world. Today, they do some 40 multi-day free clinics a year, 65% of them now in the U.S.
STAN BROCK [ FOUNDER, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL]: The need is all over the United States, just like this, wherever you go. There are about 49 million people that don't have access to the care they need. They simply can't afford it.
WHITAKER: Family physician Natalie Nevins has worked in villages in India and Africa.
NATALIE NEVINS: Here at home, we have as much a need as I do when I travel to the most remote areas of India, and that's very heartbreaking. Most of these people work. They have jobs, but they work for small companies that can't afford to give them insurance.
WHITAKER: For doctors and patients here, the shouting over health care reform is incomprehensible.
GARCIA: Walk in my shoes. Try it a couple of weeks. You won't last.
WHITAKER: Sutina Green works for the City of Long Beach. She could be speaking for every patient here.
SUTINA GREEN: I have five children and I'm a single mother. So for me, this was a blessing.
WHITAKER: Now, Katie, this has been going on all day. The doctors here are overwhelmed. They don't have enough volunteers to meet the need. Now, they expect to serve more than 1,000 people a day through Tuesday, and after they close down, they expect to send thousands more away unserved. Katie.
COURIC: Bill Whitaker in Inglewood, California. Bill, thank you.
-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.